By: Dante Brown
EMDRIA Consultant & Basic Trainer
In a world where the mental health of children and teens is a growing concern, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) emerges as a beacon of hope. With the stresses of modern life bearing down on young shoulders, EMDR provides a pathway for young people to navigate and cope with trauma and the challenges of growing up in today’s complex world. In my practice, I've witnessed firsthand the impact of EMDR, an evidence-based therapy acclaimed for its success in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults, now being thoughtfully tailored to the hearts and minds of children and teens.
Young people process trauma and stress through a different lens than adults; their brains are a work in progress, and often they lack the vocabulary and cognitive tools to deal with deep-seated emotions. EMDR transcends the barriers of verbal communication, making it an especially apt choice for those who might find it difficult to verbalize their internal experiences.
Therapists are reimagining EMDR to resonate with the developmental stages of children and teens. Through a blend of age-appropriate language, play-based strategies, and active engagement, I personally tailor each session to suit a young person's concentration, emotional understanding, and cognitive capabilities. Some of the most successful adaptations I have embraced include:
Utilizing Technology: Today's digital natives are responsive to tech-driven interventions. Websites, apps, and even virtual reality platforms offer cutting-edge ways to make EMDR more accessible and engaging for the youth.
Sandtray Therapy: Drawing inspiration from the innovative work of Ana Gomez on integrating play and sandtray with EMDR, crafting safe spaces within a sandtray has become a cornerstone of my practice in introducing EMDR to younger clients.
Artistic Expression: Encouraging children and teens to use art within the EMDR framework allows for a creative and non-threatening medium to process their experiences.
Movement: Reflecting on the serendipitous discovery of EMDR, I incorporate movement into sessions, finding it to be a potent adjunct to traditional EMDR techniques, particularly with the youth.
EMDR therapy for children and teens facing complex trauma, attachment disorders, or a history of multiple traumatic events, can be quite nuanced. I'm a proponent of continuous professional development; thus, seeking out advanced training and consultation from experts specializing in EMDR with young populations is crucial for providing effective and responsible care.
As we strive to address the mental health needs of our younger generation, EMDR stands out as a versatile and compassionate therapy. It aligns with the fluid nature of their developing brains and offers a way for them to process their trauma safely and creatively. Whether it's through creating safe spaces via sandtray, the strokes of a paintbrush to express what words cannot, or the rhythms of movement, EMDR is adapting to the language of today's youth, guiding them towards healing and resilience.